Throughout the 2020 season, the New York Yankees consistently relied on three relievers: Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, and Chad Green. While this trio has been excellent during their Yankee careers, the Yankees need to depend on more than a few relievers. Even with Darren O’Day as their fourth man out of the pen, the Yankees would love to have another dependable arm. Fortunately, the Yankees are littered with in-house options that could break out this year.
Before diving in, it is worth noting that pitchers such as Deivi García, Michael King, Ben Heller, and Clarke Schmidt were left off the list. García and Schmidt are both future starters, and though they might spend some time in the bullpen during this season, it won’t be long enough for them to break out. As for King, there were not many positive takeaways from last season, whereas Heller has never been a mainstay in the Yankees bullpen over the past four years. Now that these honorable mentions are covered, here are some relievers that could dominate in 2021:
Loaisiga has been as a swingman throughout his Yankee career, and the additions of Corey Kluber and Jameson Tallion have pushed Loaisiga farther down on the starting pitching depth chart. Therefore, Loaisiga should spend the majority of his time in the Yankees bullpen in 2021. Nevertheless, in 2020 Loaisiga lowered his walk rate and hard-hit percentage dramatically. If he can continue that trend over a larger sample size, then Loaisiga should be a major addition to the Yankees bullpen.
The former top 30 Yankees prospect debuted last season, and his first appearance was fun to watch. Nelson carved up Red Sox hitters left and right, striking out four in three hitless innings. During the rest of the season, Nelson had mixed results. Hopefully, his eye-popping fastball velocity of 96.6 MPH and above-average changeup shows the Yankees should give him another shot in the bullpen.
Similar to Nelson, Kriske is a former top 30 prospect with a hard-throwing fastball. However, Kriske has been a career reliever and had a strong campaign in Double-A back in 2019. Despite his inflated 14.73 ERA in four MLB games last year, his strikeout rate remained impressive at the highest level. He might not make the Yankees team out of Spring Training, but he should reach the bigs sometime during this season and could be there to stay.
Abreu currently ranks as the Yankees’ #12 prospect via MLB.com. Abreu has spent a long time in the Yankees system after being acquired in the Brian McCann trade, but he finally got his first cup of coffee in 2020. He has spent most of his minor league career as a starter, but given the necessity of adding more high octane arms to the bullpen, Abreu could get an extended look in 2021.
Germán was an 18-game winner in 2019, but a lot has changed since his breakout campaign. A domestic violence suspension forced Germán to miss all of the 2020 season. He tried to get back into mid-season form by heading over to the Dominican Winter League this offseason but put up a lackluster 7.16 ERA. The Yankees could still add a starter before the season begins, and if not Deivi García has the edge to earn the fifth starter spot. Additionally, German has arguably more success out of the bullpen (career 2.48 ERA in 40.0 IP) than as a starter at the Major League level (career 4.92 ERA in 203.0 IP). Besides, Germán is more of a two-pitch pitcher, and he might have the best chance to dominate in relief than the rest of these candidates.
All five pitchers listed have great potential. Even if one of them is able to step up in the Yankees bullpen, that would make a huge difference. Each one of these starters are under team control for the next few years. As a result, Not only could one of these relievers help the Yankees make a deep postseason run, but they could help out the Yankees for years to come.